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Hunting traditions changing

This past hunting season, I only got one deer and four squirrels. There was just no real abundance of game in 2016 in this area. This is not my biggest concern at the present time. My leading concern is the decline in the participation in the noble sport of hunting and all of the shooting sports as well.

All sportsmen and women should be concerned about this decline. Hunting and recreational shooting are an important part in the cultural history of the United States. People who are true hunters are a dedicated group of individuals who spend hours pursuing this favorite pastime. Many of them are self-committed conservationists following the footsteps of their parents, grandparents and even their great grandparents.

Today the hunting community has shrunk to where it is less than six percent of the nation’s population. It does matter whether people who hunt and fish like it or not, but cultures and traditions change with time. The big question is what else is going to change if the tradition of hunting and shooting sports slip out of focus and fades into history.

Sport hunting is vital for the economy of thousands of rural communities throughout the nation. The United States is home to more than 13 million hunters and more than 40 million shooting sports participants. These combined activities support more than one and a half million jobs each year. It is clearly obvious a big decline in these sports is going to have some large economic consequences nationwide.

In 1937, an excise tax was put on sporting firearms and ammunition. This tax has generated more than $10.5 billion for wildlife conservation. These funds have been divided among wildlife agencies for conservation, hunter education and shooting sports programs. On the average, about 70 percent of each state’s fish and wildlife management agency’s operating budget is funded from this excise tax and state license sales.

Each year, hunters spend close to $800 million on licenses and permits. In addition to this, hunters donate an estimated $440 million to sportsmen groups and conservation organizations. Without these funds, wildlife conservation will decrease not only for game animals, but all wildlife as well. It will not be just traditions, family adventures and community ties that will fade into history, but accessible public lands will also vanish. Various levels of government will find another way to use all of these hundred of millions of wilderness acres nationwide.

Last year, leaders from archery, firearms, ammunition companies, state fish and wildlife agencies and conservation groups developed a plan to reverse this decline in hunting and shooting sports participation. Among them include the Izaak Walton League of America and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Nationwide several organizations have been discussing this challenge for several years. They seem to realize this is going to take time, along with dogged hard work with strong determination and partnerships. To fully reverse this decline in hunting and shooting sports, participation is going to be something that will not be achieved overnight, in one year, or even one or two decades. But working together as conservation-minded sportsmen and women, they can adapt to ensure the tradition of sport hunting and shooting sports will stay strong for many generations to come, particularly in Randolph County and West Virginia.

Area anglers and hunters need to be marking their calendars for March 14. This is when the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will hold their annual regulations public meeting most likely at the Elkins Operations Center on Ward Road. Over the years, I have tried to get more anglers and hunters to attend this yearly meeting.

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